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4.0 out of 5 stars Adam von Trott, and should the July 20th Plot have succeeded, 2 Sep 2011
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This is the third biography in English on Adam von Trott zu Solz since Christopher Sykes' in 1968. This one is about a fifth the length (pp. 86) of Giles MacDonogh's (1989) version (see my review). If one reads this schematic biography before MacDonogh it is easier to appreciate his findings in full.

In a sense, Kenneth Sears has produced a short, but useful extended essay of the present findings of von Trott, with some further points not included by MacDonogh. Sears, however, does not cover any chapter or make any mention of Subhas Chandra Bose, or von Trott's work on the Indian office found in MacDonogh.

First, due to the brevity of this volume it becomes clear that after the failed plot the Gestapo were only interested in the links between individuals with Count von Stauffenberg, and it had little on all the past movements overseas in wartime of von Trott. He even admitted his role in negotiations with the Allies. This finding interested the SS, and Himmler in particular who thought it useful to continue using him in future, as Himmler realised that the Allies would never negotiate with Germany still nominally run by a man like Hitler who they considered totally insane. But when Himmler asked Hitler if von Trott could be spared death, it was reported he threw a tantrum, screaming all the Foreign Office men had to be hanged. It was the fact that von Trott's name appeared in several lists of a post War non-Nazi German government that finally pushed the decision against him. What is of interest here is the growing divisions emerging by 1944 within the top structure of the Nazi State, and within the SS, with everyone ready to save their own skins. This point should be followed up now with the publication of Ian Kershaw's third volume of Hitler's biography, entitled The End (2011).

Second, before the bomb exploded on July 20th, 1944, Germany's military commanders already knew the war was lost. Rommel who have come to favour the plot (except for the plan for assassination), and was considered the future leader, had opened a radio link with the Americans at the end of June. In addition, in the days immediately before his own accident he and Gen Stuelpnagel, Military Commander of Paris, had instructed Walter Bargatzky, a lawyer, to draw up a document to send to Montgomery, which was to be presented on the 20th about a possible armistice. After Rommel's accident, and despite the failed plot and the Allies continued call for "unconditional surrender", Eisenhower had still been authorized to accept a battlefield surrender. Patton was reported to be used on one occasion. This indicates that in the field, amongst the military, there seemed a lot of movements and designs were on taking place. It also gives the impression that Roosevelt must have been less dogmatic in private on the issue of "unconditional surrender".

Third, Churchill claimed (unlike Sir Stafford Cripps who trusted von Trott) even in mid 1944 he was not informed correctly of the true strength and nature of opposition in Germany. In part, this may seem untrue, and a total whitewash to what happened thereafter, as he continued to emphasize the official policy of "unconditional surrender" and of "silence" with the foe. There is evidence that Ultra signals / intelligence reports had reached him but they were left unsorted and muddled up. Given that a little later, in 1945, at Yalta Churchill, seemed very tired, and very unprepared, this idea may not to be excluded, especially if it was something which went against the grain of unity of all the three Allies. But, Sears states that the German desk of the Foreign Office continued to belittle the plotters, calling the attempt simply "the Revolt of the Generals", and not a wider resistance. Moreover, by stressing the failure of the plot may have spared Allies any "future embarrassments", and the subsequent purge removed from the scene numerous individuals which may have caused "us" difficulty, may in hindsight give the impression that the Foreign Office was blind to what was going on. It is also possible, however, that they were less blind when the word "us" is considered. Don't forget that at the Foreign Office there was a certain H.A.R. Philby, known as "Kim", with great influence around and his idea of "us" meant for the exclusive benefit of the Soviets. It is likely he will have informed his superiors in the NKGB. Maybe the answers may be found in the Kremlin. Churchill, therefore should not be totally blamed for being hoodwinked, nor exonerated simply for being our Winnie. It is very possible that the reports received were purposely muddled up by pro-Stalinist civil servants, and so they were not read. Indeed, two years later, in 1946, in a different climate and now Leader of the Opposition, Churchill paid generous tribute to the plotters, and regretted his speech of 1944. He stated: "As long as they lived they were invisible and unrecognisable to us, because they had to camouflage themselves. But the death made the resistance visible", and this admission would certainly have gladdened the heart of Adam von Trott..

What von Trott would not have accepted was the immovable feelings of Anthony Eden who never accepted to have made any errors of judgement. Perhaps this is may show the immoveable feelings again in 1956 over Suez.

Fourth, in one of the Forewords, David Marquand makes the point that had the plotters succeeded, and the new non-Nazi German accepted the "unconditional surrender" may have provided the Nazis with a new version of the "stab in the back" myth that had dogged the Weimar Republic. He concludes that the plotters, with von Trott in the front line, did what they did, because like Luther, they could do no other. It is likely, however, that the new "stab in the back" may have been launched by Stalin who could never accept the sincerity of the West in wartime. Obviously, the history of the Cold War would have evolved differently. However, if the War had ended in August 1944, as the number of deaths and casualties and destruction of property in the last ten months virtually surpassed the numbers of deaths during the earlier part of the conflict, it has to be said that no matter if there was another "stab in the back", and its possible consequences, it would have been a small loss for all the lives that might have been spared. It would have meant that Dresden need n't have been erased in February 1945, that "Bomber" Harris might have become a peer for his earlier achievements and not vilified as a war criminal, and East and West Germany took shorter routes to recovery.

Kenneth Sears booklet is useful, a worthy addition, and shows the debate emanating from the research is bubbling with ideas. As von Trott was a believer in European Unity even if very different from the present EU, one wonders what new discoveries are sill to be unearthed
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Opposing Hitler: Adam Von Trott Zu Solz, 1909-1944 - 'To Strive and Not to Yield'
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